Outdoors with John Perkovich

Posted: Tuesday, November 29, 2005

There seems to be a lot of really bad viruses going around this winter. I have been battling these flu bugs and colds for several weeks without much success. On Friday November 25th I received a call from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game to butcher a road killed bull moose near Fred Meyer on East Redoubt Rd. After being sick for two weeks I never felt much like getting up off my couch to go butcher a moose. But I knew that my list of people needing moose meat was not going to get filled if I did not go.

So I loaded my butchering equipment in my pick-up and drove to the scene of the car moose accident where I met the refuge warden who led me through the woods to the animal. As soon as I approached the animal I noticed one broken leg (typical for car crashes involving adult moose). I also noticed an ugly looking green substance running from behind the shoulder on the right side of the animal clear down one side. I asked the warden what he thought that was from, and he said he might have got gored while fighting with another bull.

I did not like the way it looked and mentioned to the warden that I would start skinning the animal to determine if the meat was even salvageable. After the warden left I begin skinning on the very top of the animal directly above the injury area rather then start on the legs like I normally do. That way if the meat was not salvageable I did not have to waste a lot of time skinning the whole animal before finding out that it wasn’t edible.

I did not skin very far when I discovered a huge abscess that was over 20 inches long, 8 to 10 inches wide and over 4 inches deep. The whole top section of the carcass was also discolored which is generally caused by one of two things, (1) meat that was not cooled properly is often times off colored or has a reddish pink tint to it. I knew since the moose was lying on snow that cooling was not the problem. (2) An infection and fever is the other situation where I have found to cause discoloration of the carcass. So apparently whatever caused this ugly abscess had also caused a fever in the moose. I also discussed the situation with Veterinarians Dr. James Delker and Dr. Taby of the Twin Cities Veterinary Clinic and they agreed the meat was not edible since the abscess being 4 inches deep had to be infecting the blood stream of the animal, which would also explain the discoloration.

I have previously worked in 7 meatpacking plants in my life and I know that the Federal meat inspectors would have rejected any animal with an abscess like this. So I decided that since I (not the Department of Fish & Game) am responsible for any meat I give away on the road kill program that there was no way this animal was safe for human consummation.

Sadly I walked back to my truck and drove home thinking what a waste this was to have a 1000 lb plus animal just go to waste. I pondered what could have caused the wound that may have contributed to the bull getting hit by the vehicle in the first place. Was it a bear, another moose, an arrow, or even a bullet? I probed the area of the wound briefly but did not find anything. Typically bull moose are not hit by vehicles, it is usually cows and calves.

I phoned the refuge warden and told him what I found and he agreed he would not try to salvage it either. I then called the dispatchers at the Troopers office and explained the situation to them. I also told them I hate to loose my turn on the road kill list because the one I was called on was not salvageable. They also agreed and later that night I got called to butcher another one near Kelly-Peterson Lake on the other side of Sterling.

Travis and I got up and drove through Sterling to mile marker 68.5 where we found the big cow moose on the north side of the road. It was snowing hard when we arrived and the road was getting slippery. Two conditions that make dressing out a moose along side of the road dangerous.

We decided to unhook our trailer and to drag the moose to the edge of the road with the pick-up and winch it on the trailer and butcher the animal at home. With Travis guiding me we soon had the moose out to the shoulder of the road and were just started pulling it on the trailer with the come-along when another guy by the name of Joe Germane stopped and helped us finish loading the animal. Joe was one of these guys who seemed to appear out of nowhere on a dark, cold and snowy night to help a father & son team and I can promise you that his act of kindness will never be forgotten.

There were many fellow Alaskans who drove by us that evening but the “one” who stopped was a true Alaskan, a man who refused any money or anything for his help. Joe told me he just likes to be able to help out whenever he can. That moose was moose number 50 that I have butchered through the road kill program since starting working on it several years ago. I can count on one hand how many times that anyone has drove up offering to help and still have several fingers left over! Thank you Joe Germane!

After getting back home it became a whole family project to get the meat put away in the cooler and the mess cleaned up. Then we have a couple days to get it cut, ground and wrapped so that it can be distributed to needy people. Many of our senior citizens and other needy people have received meat on this wonderful program here in Alaska. I’m so thankful to be in a place and a situation where my family and I can help so many other people that probably could not afford to buy meat. After all isn’t that what being a true Alaskan is all about, helping each other? See you next week!

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